The ultimate train picnic
I've long been an enthusiastic champion of the train picnic. Four years of journeys from Leuchars to London were accompanied with the remnants of my fridge. Once, memorably, a pack of dolcelatte, a net of easy-peel clementines and corned beef sandwiches.
Personally, I think that food is second only to alcohol in its power to bring strangers together. I made a lot of friends with that net of clementines. But when most think of pre-planned train snacks, they generally think of the day-tripping retiree, armed with thermos and Tupperware. Similarly, the supposed politics of public eating are sacrosanct: nothing smelly, nothing loud.
There’s a saying – that rules are made to be broken.
A recent weekend in Lyon culminated in the famous cathedral where food-lovers father to worship at the altar of Paul Bocuse: Les Halles de Lyon.
Lyon is often hailed as the world's gastronomic capital. It's hard to argue when 'local produce' means poulet de Bresse, Puy lentils, Saint-Marcellin, ridonkulous Burgundy and all things piggy. Les Halles is idiosyncratically Lyonnaise, near-impossible to navigate and surprisingly devoid of tourists on the baking Sunday we visited.
With eyes bigger than our stomachs, we plunder cheese stall after cheese stall for ash-coated goats curds, anciently aged Comte; queued patiently at X charcuterie for spiced saucisson, fatty salamis, delicate sheet-like slices of pistachio-studded mortadella - and a big box of deeply meaty scratchings.
Thinking of our larder, we added jars of salt-packed anchovies, lusted over fresh octopus, stocked up with paper-light dried Morels. One baguette later, armed with a porky, sweet-jellied log of terrine, we boarded the train with reeking luggage.
And so ensued the most memorable of picnics. With packets of butter pilfered from our hotel, we dug into bread, cheese, charcuterie and a bottle of Foillard Morgon ‘Côte de Py’. With a few years age on it, it was blissful drunk from a plastic Starbucks cup.
To be fair, ours wasn’t the smelliest luggage – or snack in the vicinity.